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Over-Achievers

C.H. Roberts

5 February 1987
Pagans and Christians 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Viking, 799 pp., £17.95, October 1986, 0 670 80848 2
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... We are a third race,’ claimed Tertullian. Were the early Christians really so different and, if they were, how and why? This is the principal question RobinLaneFox sets out to answer in this compelling and readable book, which is also a major work of historical scholarship. It is a study of differing and competing religions in the second and third centuries AD ...

Where’s the Gravy?

Barbara Graziosi: Homeric Travel

27 August 2009
Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Penguin, 528 pp., £10.99, September 2009, 978 0 14 024499 1
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... to investigate the historical background: written sources (the Homeric poems themselves, as well as those by his near contemporary Hesiod) and the archaeology of early Greece. In Travelling Heroes RobinLaneFox tries to bring together texts and objects to shed light on the real-life travellers who, he believes, shaped the worldview represented in early Greek epic. He starts with Hera’s flight and ...
4 June 1981
The Search for Alexander 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Allen Lane, 439 pp., £12.95, February 1981, 0 7139 1395 9
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Alexander the Great 
by N.G.L. Hammond.
Chatto, 358 pp., £14.95, April 1981, 0 7011 2565 9
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... however, two jurors who have considered their verdict. It is rare, if not unique, for two Alexander biographies to appear in the same season, both by authors who have personally surveyed his route. RobinLaneFox has covered the whole itinerary, in this surpassing the redoubtable Sir Aurel Stein, who had to wait till he was in his eighties for permission to enter Afghanistan, and, setting out ...

Being Greek

Henry Day: Up Country with Xenophon

2 November 2006
The Long March: Xenophon and the Ten Thousand 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Yale, 351 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 300 10403 0
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The Expedition of Cyrus 
by Xenophon, translated by Robin​ Waterfield.
Oxford, 231 pp., £8.99, September 2005, 0 19 282430 9
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Xenophon’s Retreat: Greece, Persia and the End of the Golden Age 
by Robin​ Waterfield.
Faber, 248 pp., £17.99, November 2006, 0 571 22383 4
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The Sea! The Sea! The Shout of the Ten Thousand in the Modern Imagination 
by Tim Rood.
Duckworth, 272 pp., £12.99, August 2006, 0 7156 3571 9
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... prose. It’s not surprising that he was known in antiquity as ‘the Attic bee’, while Hazlitt praised the ‘clearness of style and modesty of temper’ he found in the Anabasis, a judgment that Robin Waterfield’s new translation doesn’t traduce. Xenophon’s relatively simple sentences, preference for the vivid present tense, and use of third-person narration inevitably invite comparison with ...

Who was in Tomb II?

James Romm: Macedon

6 October 2011
Heracles to Alexander the Great: Treasures from the Royal Capital of Macedon, a Hellenic Kingdom in the Age of Democracy 
by Angeliki Kottaridi et al.
Ashmolean, 264 pp., £25, April 2011, 978 1 85444 254 3
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A Companion to Ancient Macedonia 
edited by Joseph Roisman and Ian Worthington.
Wiley-Blackwell, 668 pp., £110, November 2010, 978 1 4051 7936 2
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Brill’s Companion to Ancient Macedon: Studies in the Archaeology and History of Macedon, 650 BC–300 AD 
edited by Robin​ Lane Fox.
Brill, 642 pp., €184, June 2011, 978 90 04 20650 2
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... the anthropologist Loring Danforth of ‘the Macedonian question’ in modern Balkan politics). Several of them also wrote for the Ashmolean catalogue, as did the editor of the Brill’s Companion, RobinLaneFox. LaneFox opens the volume with a thorough and highly combative defence of the attribution of Tomb II to Philip II. Combativeness is perhaps a natural trait in a historian who has given much ...

Diary

Mary Beard: Set in Tunisia

14 December 2006
... broadcast. I can think of almost no big historical movie over the last twenty years which has not boasted that its details have been rigorously checked by scholars of the most impeccable credentials. RobinLaneFox famously advised on the Macedonian phalanx for Alexander, in exchange – it has been reported – for a bit-part in the cavalry charge. Even the ghastly Troy (which was about a mythical war ...
12 March 1992
The Unauthorised Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Viking, 478 pp., £20, October 1991, 0 670 82412 7
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... a wide range of questions which occur (or should have occurred) to any intelligent reader. The title may suggest a Qumranic fantastication, or something like Robert Graves’s King Jesus, but LaneFox’s purpose, though ambitious, is sober enough. He offers an ancient historian’s view of the Bible. This is ‘a book about evidence and historical truth, not about faith. It is unauthorised ...
3 December 1992
Jesus 
by A.N. Wilson.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 269 pp., £15, September 1992, 1 85619 114 1
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... to the point of sprightliness sometimes, but without becoming facetious. Even when, for example, Wilson speaks of Jesus in the same breath and tone as he speaks of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood, he is making a serious point about the traditional techniques of rhetoric as used by St Luke, who, in this instance, drops historical names such as Caesar, Herod and Quirinius into his ...

Unruly Sweet Peas

Alison Light: Working-Class Gardens

18 December 2014
The Gardens of the British Working Class 
by Margaret Willes.
Yale, 413 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 300 18784 7
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... with furniture, heating and sound system; orchids are on sale at my local Londis. None of this has banished class condescension or made the neighbours less touchy. Gardening experts tut-tut at what RobinLaneFox calls ‘exterior decorating’, and Jane Brown ‘a horticultural hell of instant plants’, just as their predecessors disparaged the ‘pastrywork’ of bedding out or frowned at ‘purse ...

In a Garden in Milan

Adam Phillips: Augustine’s Confessions

25 October 2018
Confessions: A New Translation 
by Augustine, translated by Peter Constantine.
Liveright, 329 pp., £22.99, February 2018, 978 0 87140 714 6
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... magnificent biography – that ‘conversion’ is too modern a word for what Augustine (and indeed Paul) experienced; and that Confessions is, if anything, a series of conversion-like experiences (RobinLaneFox called his recent book Augustine: Conversions and Confessions to suggest a sequence or an accumulation of experiences rather than a blinding revelation). And there is also a consensus among ...

Madame, vous fatiguez les singes

E.S. Turner: The Tower Menagerie

24 July 2003
The Tower Menagerie: Being the Amazing True Story of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts 
by Daniel Hahn.
Simon and Schuster, 260 pp., £15.99, March 2003, 0 7432 2081 1
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... in successive years, of the 14th Light Dragoons and the 5th Dragoon Guards. It had become a class issue. Bull-baiting was the poor man’s sport and was being put down by those who upheld fox-hunting. Its defenders claimed that it was character forming, producing robust subjects in the pattern of John Bull. (If present-day fox-hunters defy a ban on their sport, will New Labour cite this ...
11 June 1992
... The noble blond beast is unreflective and they are cunning (one is tempted to say, ‘intelligent’). It is of course a picture of the rise of Christianity which has taken quite a beating recently. RobinLaneFox has shown that early Christianity was really a very middle-class affair. Nietzsche dedicated Human All Too Human – admittedly in one of his spasmodic reactions against Schopenhauer – to ...

Feel what it’s like

James Davidson: Pagans, Jews and Christians

2 March 2000
A World Full of Gods: Pagans, Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire 
by Keith Hopkins.
Weidenfeld, 402 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 297 81982 8
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... He wants you to be there. The title is misleading, yes. A World Full of Gods: Pagans, Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire, implies an even-handed survey of religions, something rather like RobinLaneFox’s Pagans and Christians, which divides more or less neatly in half. But although Hopkins includes chapters on the heathen and the Dead Sea Scrolls, it is the third group he is interested ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window

7 September 2006
Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... to plan his assaults on present-day England. Guided by a volume from 1949 entitled Buckinghamshire Footpaths, he decides to hike to Milton Keynes: ‘a homely place. Fields encroach upon the dusty by-lane, and brim over the scattered cottages.’ He is soon clambering over the M1, through a vast Tesco storage depot, and into the Gyosei Japanese boarding-school in Willen, where he is apprehended as a ...
26 October 1989
... scrambled egg. Still, there were few occasions on which one saw Miss Shepherd genuinely happy and one of them was when she was putting paint on. A few years before she died she went in for a Reliant Robin (to put more of her things in). It was actually yellow to start with, but that didn’t save it from an additional coat which she applied as Monet might have done, standing back to judge the effect ...

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